We’ve talked about making a Vision emotional and memorable. We now move to making it credible. If it’s not credible, then people won’t put in the effort.
This draws a fine line: you want to stretch and inspire people, but you also want them to believe that what you say is possible. People are willing to put in superior effort for something that they really believe in, but once you tip that into the impossible, then all effort evaporates and you end up looking just plain stupid.
If Usain Bolt’s coach says “I think you can run 9.42 seconds for the one hundred metre dash, he trains his butt of, but if the coach says “I think you can run 7.31 seconds, Usain probably starts looking for another coach.
So how do we make sure it’s credible? Well, apart from just making sure that you set something that is within their reach, there are a few other tactics that you can employ.
Here are three.
1) Show Evidence
Why is it possible? People don’t mind being stretched if you can show them the plan. Sony said they wanted to ‘put a radio in your pocket’; Apple’s original plan was to put ‘1000 songs in a matchbox’; JFK said that the American people could “put a man on the moon”. These things sounded incredulous at the time, but people got behind them and made them happen. They believed in them.
And part of the reason they believed was because the leaders had a credible plan. They could see the steps involved and they could make a logical connection. Better yet, where possible, ask your people to come up with their own plan. They might just see the logic and be inspired.
2) Why this time?
Why should people believe that this time is going to be any different? This is a difficult challenge to surmount. Firstly, most employees are conditioned to believe that whatever new vision/mission/strategy you formulate really doesn’t mean anything. Unfortunately, too many managers say things are going to be different – but they rarely are. The big idea gets put in a drawer and everyone goes back to business as usual.
The only way to overcome this sort of apathy is to constantly show, through action and communication, that you are serious. Remember, it takes about 1000 repetitions to form a new habit, so changing people’s perceptions is a similar undertaking.
The other challenge to overcome is if a similar vision has been implemented in the past and failed. Why would it be different this time? In this case, showing the evidence (and possibly a sense of urgency) is the means by which you can show people that it truly is different this time.
3) Show them through stories
Whatever your Vision, you will find that you already have people who are displaying the behaviours that will help achieve it. Whether it’s an employee that is showing exceptional customer service commitment, or someone that has challenged the status quo and made the company a better place, these stories do two important things:
Firstly, they show people that it’s possible. People can listen to these and say “hey, they did it, so can I – maybe it’s not that hard.” Secondly, they give concrete parameters about what you expect to see from people in order to achieve the Vision. They positively reinforce the behaviours that you hope for.
There are many reasons why a Vision will fail. But if you do some of these things, you increase your chances of success dramatically. Make your Vision emotional, memorable and credible.